Getting Close to Game Time

LSU head coach Les Miles has the Tigers working out at Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando, Fla., each afternoon marking another step towards Friday's bout with Penn State.

After LSU topped Arkansas at the end of November, the Tigers took a two-week break from the football field.


13 practices – nine in Baton Rouge and four in Orlando – later, Les Miles has his side nearly ready for their New Year’s Day game against the Nittany Lions.


“The hard work is really in,” he said. “We have had a good week. [Tuesday’s] practice was one where it was a little shorter, but frankly we got in a lot of work and went over a great deal of the game plan.


“We looked pretty sharp.”


The Tigers will practice again on Wednesday before wrapping up with a walk-through session on Thursday. Friday’s Capital One Bowl against Penn State (10-2) is scheduled for noon CST on ABC.


“Yesterday we went probably 25 minutes against good versus good,” said Miles of the team’s work with contact drills. “Today we went eight or 10 minutes good versus good. Tomorrow we will go none.


“[Wednesday] will be finishing, and we will practice all the different situations that we would normally practice on a Thursday. I like our preparation and where we are. We just have to finish.”


Miles, who heads into Friday’s game with a 4-0 bowl record during his four seasons in Baton Rouge, said that taking advantage of team speed would be paramount to LSU’s success.


“If we can get in front, we feel like we are faster,” he said. “It’s getting in front that is the key. We think we have some advantages in certain matchups, and the want to get that done in the game.”


“You don’t get beyond yourself. This is the key, the focus and what we have to be. I pointed that out to our team that we need to understand that there is no more important victory than the next one. It is going to take a great effort, and it is going to be a New Year’s Day bowl versus a great opponent.”


The Tiger team, far from the confines of the LSU practice facility, has taken to Dr. Phillips High School in Orlando for their workout sessions.


“It’s a practice facility that is imperfect, but it is a great field,” Miles said. “It is not home, but it is not supposed to be. We are in Orlando.”? 


Junior cornerback Jai Eugene, who missed the team plane last Saturday, will have his situation monitored by Miles in the coming days before a game time decision is rendered.


“He is on in-house suspension,” Miles said. “He is locked down. His travel expenses were his own. We’ll study how much playing time he gets.”


For the rest of the Tigers, the fun and games in the Sunshine State are nearly in the rearview.


“We have reeled in curfew already,” Miles said. “We started it late at 2 a.m. We have shortened it from that point forward. [Tuesday] is 12. We will be locked up in here and doing the things that we need to do for our own game.”?


Eliminating outside chatter, a precaution most college coaching staffs must take this time of year, remains one of Miles’ biggest tasks.


This week, it is talk of first-year defensive coordinator John Chavis, who spent over two decades at Tennessee, having interest in filling a similar role with the Georgia Bulldogs.


“We have not discussed Georgia in any way,” Miles said. “There is word out that Georgia has interest. I have not heard from Georgia. I don’t really want to talk about that. It is a distraction to a game.”? 


If LSU beats Penn State, the victory will mark the Tigers’ 100th win of the decade.


“With any success that is had at LSU I think our team enjoys being a part of it,” Miles said. “It is a responsibility to continue it. It is a great tradition that needs to be built upon. I think our guys don’t really count the numbers but understand that they are responsible to continue the tradition.”? ?

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